A&E: Pompano Beach Embraces the Arts

Pompano Beach. Photo credit: Jody Leshinsky, via Facebook

(Mirror) For decades, most of Broward County’s cultural institutions were found in Fort Lauderdale. But now, that’s changing as the city of Pompano Beach invests significant in the arts, making Fort Lauderdale’s northern neighbor a destination for theater, concerts, exhibitions and festivals.

Among the visionaries leading the way is Jody Leshinsky, former assistant director of Broward County’s Cultural Division. Leshinsky retired from the county just two and a half years ago, but that retirement was short lived.

“My whole retirement was two weeks,” she recounted in a telephone interview.
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First, Leshinsky joined the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), charged with jumpstarting early efforts at the city’s new venues, Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) in the city’s historic downtown, and the Pompano Beach Cultural Center, which was under construction. 

“It was a priority for the city—when they do their annual goals—that they include the cultural arts. Several years ago, the city wrote a master plan to redevelop two areas, the Northwest CRA and Beach CRA, and the arts were a key piece. When you have the arts, people will come and that can change the neighborhood,” she pointed out.

Last year, Leshinsky transitioned to the city administration as cultural venues programming manager. She oversees all the programs at the cultural center and BaCA, as well as the Blanche Ely House Museum and Historic Ali Cultural Arts Center, former residences turned gallery, classroom and office spaces.

In keeping with the city’s commitment to diversity, each of the venues hosts signature events, ranging from jazz concerts, salsa dancing lessons, poetry jams, a comedy series and storytelling workshops, in addition to the usual art and dance classes, theater performances and concerts.

Leshinsky and her team are also focusing on bringing regional and national artists to the venues, including Miami City Ballet, South Florida Chamber Ensemble, Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and Opera Fusion. 

One of the most popular events is Old Town on Tap, a street festival held on the first Friday of each month showcasing local artists and, of course, artisanal beer. Depending on the month, the event may draw up to 5,000 residents and visitors. 

“We really try to make sure we have something for everyone at each of our venues,” she explained. “The fun stuff is sitting in a meeting and brainstorming ideas.”

Leshinsky, also an accomplished professional photographer, is thriving in her role:

“I get out of bed really early and get here at 7 a.m., then I’m answering 5,000 emails, giving tours, proofreading—I do a lot of proofreading— but that’s what I do…the end product drives me because I believe in it. I’m so proud to be working in Pompano and proud of a city and commissioners that believe in the arts,” she concluded.